Not In The Past

Looking forward from 30

Archive for the category “Politics”

Massacre

I was at work when I first heard about the massacre at Sandy Hook on Friday; I had seen stories pop up on my Facebook friend feed, but by the time everyone else at work was talking about it, the horror and revulsion had really set in.  Barack Obama’s emotional reaction to the senselessness of it all made it all the more real for me.

At this point, I have absolutely no tolerance for the pro-gun lobby in the United States.  I don’t know if it’s just because I can see it from a distance (being Canadian), but the way guns are woven into the history and culture of the nation  is absolutely absurd.  One of the first things I thought when processing the whole event was that there have been too many gun-powered massacres in such a short while, and that violence and guns are just so woven into the American history and culture.

It’s an understatement to say that America has a love affair with guns.  It’s become an outright detrimental fetish, as if to talk reasonable gun control was analogous to castration.  I’ve seen how some people talk about their right to own guns, as if anyone who doesn’t agree is an unholy, anti-American eunuch.  I’ve read fiction about armed citizens getting revenge on the criminal element that read with such eroticism infused in the act of pulling the trigger and ending a life that the author deemed to have forfeited its value.  It’s positively sickening.

Lack of access to proper mental health care is also an important factor in the tragedy that needs to be addressed, but I feel so strongly that this time the gun issue has to be dealt with now.  The pro-gun rights side cannot possibly say anything to really defend not increasing restrictions and regulations on gun ownership.  It’s not going to completely eliminate the problem, but there is no way that the blood of innocent children and other people can ever justify this particular freedom.  To continue to argue to do so just seems so fucking immoral.

Jane Devin has a piece on the whole issue that’s well worth reading.  One quote stood out:

I also know people who are hunters and responsible gun owners, although to my knowledge none of them own a semi-automatic assault rifle or have a stockpile of ammunition.

One citizen should not have enough firepower to kill that many people.

Thoughts on the US election

I had been following the American election closely this year.  This is not really out of the ordinary for me: I normally follow American politics even I still pay attention to the landscape here in Canada (the next federal riding over from where I live has a really awesome MP, but that’s another post).  America is so close to us, and has such a big impact on what happens to Canada, that I couldn’t help but watch closely.

Despite the Huffington Post and Nate Silver both showing fairly optimistic projections, I was worried.  Mitt Romney had benefited greatly from Barack Obama blowing the first debate and giving him a pass while he donned the moderate costume for this leg of the journey.  I knew the hope and promise of four years ago gave way to gridlock as the country still tries to dig its way out of .  I knew there would people who would rather vote for Charles Manson than for Obama.

The night was tense.  A lot of the states that closed early in the nights were ones that would have gone red anyway, and some of the states that eventually flipped to blue were still showing Republican leads from the early returns.  I kept reassuring myself that these were the rural counties, that the real Democratic strongholds hadn’t been counted yet.  I kept hitting refresh, waiting for a change in the standings.  I kept trying to distract myself with dishes, anything to keep me from watching the pot that wasn’t boiling.

Even when the more Dem-heavy states came alive on the boards, there were still enough question marks in the swing states.  Sure, things were starting to look good for Obama, but I kept expecting Romney to close the gap.  There was always a chance there would be a replay of 2000 or 2004, where nothing would be decided by the time I had to get to bed.

When the election was finally called for Obama, I felt relieved.  Then giddy.

The last few years were hell.  There was a sense that people were out for revenge.  A lot of reports of downright racist displays involving Obama.  Even the right’s support for a chicken sandwich chain’s religious stance felt tinged with a greater sense of “let’s stick it to the gays” than “first amendment”.  After years of bitter vitriol and obstructionism, it was such a comfort to know that the bad behavior wasn’t getting rewarded.  It wasn’t just the financial advantage that seemed to worry me; the fact that Mitt Romney seemed to shed and grow different skins to suit whoever he was pandering to was a big issue.  For all the talk about how he was a values candidate, a business candidate, he really didn’t seem to stand for anything other than his own entitlement to the presidency.  There was also a cold cruelty about him (and his wife) that really got to me.  Mitt Romney scared me in a way I hadn’t been scared by a presidential candidate in years.  Bush stood for things I didn’t like, but he didn’t seem to have the thinly-veiled nastiness and aggression that seemed to come out every time Romney was challenged.

One reason I’m glad about an Obama victory is that his winning a second term made his first term seem more real to me.  Had Romney walked away with the election, the Obama administration might have been a brief four-year abberation in between two periods where power in America had lurched decisively to the right, with whatever Obama had achieved in his first term being swiftly undone by a Republican administration, and the gains of the past 50 (or more years) erased by Supreme Court Justices along the lines of Scalia and Thomas (who for all intents and purposes might as well be the same person).

Obama has not been a perfect president, and there are things that still concern me about a second term, so I wasn’t expecting for it to be as emotional as November 4, 2008, with that history-making decision.  But I still felt emotional anyway: especially when I was checking out the House and Senate races and the ballot measures.  The amazing and strong Elizabeth Warren beat Scott Brown in Massachussetts.  Voters decided that candidates who made insensitive comments about rape did not speak for them.  George “Macaca” Allen tried to get his Senate seat back and failed.  It looks like Allen West is going to lose too.

Most emotional for me was that it was a decisive sea change for LGBT people at the polls.  Tammy Baldwin became the first openly gay U.S. senator.  Following year after year where voters were putting the kibosh on gay marriage in their states, four states broke the trend: Maine, Maryland and Washington approved of same sex marriage, while Minnesota rejected a constitutional ban.  But the real change seems to be on its way: America has the first pro-gay marriage administration, one that has already done so much for LGBT people already.  It really is getting better.  Maybe soon, America will catch up to Canada.

Republican National Convention thoughts

I’m watching the American elections with interest this year, largely because the Republican Party seems to have embraced the whole Frank Burns rhetoric, thanks to the Tea Party.  They chose the man who scared the least number of people during the primaries for their President, with a bone to the far right with his VP pick, but there really wasn’t a lot of excitement about Mitt Romney, the lead on the ticket.  There was a lot of “see, Mitt’s not a bad guy” speeches, a lot of heckling toward Barack Obama, money being spent out of everyone’s butt and a bit of damage control to quell the cries of sexism directed at the party.  A lot of people seemed to make a dry run for 2016, almost as if they themselves weren’t too confident about Romney’s chances in November.  Paul Ryan gave a speech with so many untruths that if he were Pinocchio, his nose would have shot out and impaled a 100 people.  Clint Eastwood rambled semi-coherently to an invisible and foul-mouthed Obama.   Mitt Romney said a lot of stuff about how Obama failed despite everyone wanting him to succeed (another lie) and that if he were President, he would fix the economy with a plan (that he doesn’t have specifics on), stand up to America’s enemies, and make all of our wildest dreams come true.  Oh, there were also a few dog-whistles for good measure, as well as an unfortunate incident involving peanuts being thrown at a black camerawomen.   The convention at least brought a little more enthusiasm from the party toward their nominee, in the sense that they’ve gone from “*resigned sigh*, Mitt Romney for President” to “Mitt Romney for President…I guess”.

I know that Obama’s not going to change the mind of many Republicans, especially the ones that have been stoked into a frenzy of resentment and paranoia.  If the economy completely recovered, there’s still enough voters that buy the lie that he’s a socialist anti-Christian who hates white people, apologizes for America, and is going to steal their guns.  Obama better make his case to the people who left the choir, the ones on the fence, the ones who don’t use the phrase “lamestream media” as if they were some great wit.  Mitt Romney and the Republican Party’s small victory this week has only given the Democratic Party an opportunity.  My hope for the DNC is that Obama and his party seize the opportunity to be specific about their goals for the next four years.  They’ll have to also discuss the effects of the Ryan budget in a way that doesn’t sink to the doomsaying hyperbole that the Republicans have been drumming up about Obama for the past few years.  There are still a lot of people that do like Obama, though.   They need to make sure they restoke the fires that brought people to the polls, especially in the face of the organizational and financial powerhouse of the right wing, as well as laws drafted under the guise of rooting out voter fraud (using a crane to crush a fly) but have been challenged for their disproportionate effects on the poor and elderly.  Frankly, if Obama and the Dems wiff the easy pitches that Romney and the Republicans lobbed this week, I’ll be much more pessimistic about November than I am right now.

I really feel bad for a lot of people in the Republican Party.  They’re caught between a candidate that they disagree with on principle, and a guy who pandered so hard to the loudest, most vengeful wing of the party that he’s willing to repudiate his main success in public office.  A man who points to his success at Bain Capital as proof he’s the man for the job, despite the fact that a lot of Bain Capital’s financial success came from leveraged buyouts (borrow money to buy firm, get profits, firm gets debt and pays fee for Bain’s help with trying to skim the fat) and actually involved being bailed out by the US Government valve he is trying to shut off.  (Everyone following the US Election should read the damning Rolling Stone cover story on Romney’s past at Bain).   His private sector success is irrelevant; it only serves to obfuscate that his job creation record as governor was mediocre.   Some say that Obama can’t run on his record, but I think there’s more for him to celebrate than Romney, which is telling.  There are too many disconnects and deficits with Romney to really think he would be a strong president.

A conservative Twitter buddy of mine pointed out that he’s lacking in idealism, seemingly in the race more for himself than America.   I think that’s accurate.  I think the party could have done much, much better than Mitt Romney.  He was the best of a bad lot of candidates (aside from maybe Huntsman), but his success in the primaries feels more like the result of his financial reserves, the other candidates’ liabilities, and being able to feed off of anti-incumbent sentiment than anything that resembled strong policy or forward thinking.  While I disagree with the Republican Party on a lot of issues, I want to see them actually have a candidate with a vision that does justice to the party’s history, and that they finally stop exploiting the fear of the “other” in lieu of serious debate on the issues.

I may not be American, but what happens down there has an impact on what happens up here.

Politics redux

Ayn Rand quotes are the right wing’s Che Guevara posters.  I disagree with the right on a lot of issues, yet for all their posturing about how they live in the “real world”, it comes off just as idealistic as anything I’ve read about ending poverty.  I’m no longer horrified, but I still get angry when I see how this idealism is matched with condescension toward the less fortunate (my biggest trigger), or bundled up with thinly-veiled racism, sexism or homophobia.

This American election coming up this fall reminds me so much of a shriller, parties-reversed version of 2004.  In the White House, you have a President that the other side seems to viscerally loathe.  They question the legitimacy of his presidency, and his first term is marked by one particularly polarizing decision.  For all the outrage and hand-wringing on their part, though, their challenger in the election is particularly uninspiring: a Massachusetts politician considered the “safe” choice in a group of more colorful candidates, with a reputation for flip-flopping and not much more to their platform than opposition to the polarizing decision the President made.  The main difference is there’s a lot more money involved in the race (thank you, Supreme Court) and the noise level is just to the point where everything is so obnoxious that I can’t wait until it’s all over.

I hope the Republican Party comes to its senses.  It’s gone so far to the right that even respected conservative judges are calling them “goofy”.

Political poll

Further discussion is welcome in the comments.

Crandall Scandal

I’m going to be going down to Moncton tomorrow night, and flying to Toronto the next morning.  I intend to keep a journal of my time there: perhaps I might edit my entries into a post here.  Maybe not.  Depends on how personal the writing is.

I want to spread awareness of another issue here: Crandall University in Moncton gets an insane amount of money from city council, despite the school having discriminatory hiring practices that pose a religious test on all potential faculty, including a ban on practicing homosexuals.  The issue is not so much the school’s right to have these practices as it is about public money going to such a place.  Understandably, there are calls for them to cut funding.  I would publicly like to add my voice to these calls, and I hope you spread awareness about this, either by posting Twitter with the hashtag #CrandallScandal, or going on Tumblr, or writing to city council.  Moncton has to think about what kind of image it sends to LGBT people when it uses taxpayer money in this way.  In all honesty, it saddens me, but it doesn’t surprise me.  We’re not really the most gay-friendly province in Canada.

Sitting around

I got a call from an old friend this week.  I’m not someone who uses the phone part of my cellphone too much, but it was good talking with someone whose voice I hadn’t heard in almost two years.  I’m thinking that someday I might as well take his advise and take up fishing (don’t really like eating fish though).

I house-sat for my parents this week while they went on a vacation; nice to have a little more time to myself.  I’ve also been digitizing some of my VHS tapes, doing work on the ol’ resume and trying to get some stuff cleaned and sorted.

Now that I know what’s going on with the whole EI thing, I’m relieved that it will take some time to implement, but I still don’t like what they’re doing.  It’s going to be a disaster for Atlantic Canada (read a good explanation here) and I really am thinking that the goal is to turn the region into a seaside resort for the wealthy and third-world-like conditions for the rest of us.   I also resent people with gold-plated pensions telling people to accept any job within an hour’s drive (which is a lot in a rural province like New Brunswick, especially in areas with shitty roads and bad weather) that pays as little as 70% of their previous job’s wages.  I’ve written Jim Flaherty, Diane Finley and my local MP about the issue, but I feel like the Conservative MPs don’t necessarily serve the people of their region, they merely exist for Stephen Harper’s agenda to ram through Parliament, and then their constituencies get “rewards”.

Judging by the legislation introduced in the last year that has held many unpleasant surprises, I have to wonder if Harper would actually try getting rid of same-sex marriage in Canada, or worse, recriminalizing homosexuality.

I close with the following thought about Diane Finley: have you ever noticed that in ever single picture of her, she looks like the most horribly condescending person?

This week’s going to have a massive blitz of job applications sent out.   My friend’s wedding is a week away…can’t wait.

Bad jobs

I’m legitimately angry about Jim Flaherty’s insensitive and condescending comments about the proposed changes to EI.  “No bad jobs” he says?  This is a man whose experience in lower-end positions was guaranteed to be temporary at best, to help him get between private school, university and law school.  His comments also discount the possibility of damage to someone’s career momentum,  that the company or  boss treats their employees poorly, or that some people just aren’t suited for some occupations.   It comes across as offensive as a happily married marriage counselor telling a battered wife that there are no bad marriages.   Diane Finley’s clarifications about people being matched to their jobs in their area don’t provide much comfort: to someone who is looking to make a career change and relocate to a city with a stronger economy, it’s scary to think that the government is going to force you to take a position that would pay so low that it would be impossible to save money for a relocation, or that your skills and education would slowly be mooted with time spent in a lower-status job, or underperformance in a field you weren’t suited to.

The Conservative Party of Canada seems to be taking their policy inspiration from Futurama.  I wouldn’t be surprised if they implanted people on EI with career chips in the future.

Of course, Flaherty and Finley will never have to worry about being forced to take a low-wage, low-skill job outside their field even after the voters toss their sorry asses from Parliament next election.

I worked in the call centre industry for six years.  Looking back, I would say it did help me develop a number of skills, but it was so hard to see that for the longest time because of how miserable I was.  Anyone who tells you that’s an easy job clearly has never worked in a call centre job for very long.  You often feel like you’re caught in between the middle of the customer and the company.   I liked my co-workers, and I wasn’t bad at it: I surprised myself with how well I did at sales, especially considering I don’t have the “killer instinct” needed for that kind of thing.  But by the time I left one of my jobs I was completely burned out, and felt like my life existed solely so I could take calls from upset customers.  I felt like skills I had developed at school were beginning to atrophy and that my life was disappearing from me.   There was a poor selection of shifts offered, there was an “attendance bonus” that was really a further penalty for needing to take an (unpaid) sick day.  It felt like I was sacrificing so much for an employer that wouldn’t even provide references for its employees.  It didn’t help that I felt like I couldn’t get involved deeply in anything outside at work lest my schedule changed.  The next centre I worked for had a much better atmosphere, but I still felt like I was biding my time.  For all the other stresses of call centre work, it’s really the repetition that gets to you.  When you’re having dreams that you’re on vacation but realize you need to be at your next shift, and spend the rest of your dream stressed about even showing up late, it’s not a good thing.   Neither is dreaming you’re taking calls on your cell phone far away from work.  It never helps when you’re surrounded by people who are even more depressed about their job but feel trapped even further: that kind of thing weighed on me.  I guess I’m being hard on the employer. There are types of people who can thrive in call centres; not everyone does, though.  And it’s one of those places where not thriving can make you feel like shit.

I worked as a dishwasher one time between years of university: definitely not something I did pretty well.  But does my lack of dishwashing skills mean I would not be competent in a higher-status position?

It helps to have more distance from a job to see what you got out of it and where your skills lie.  I’d be hard pressed to find positives about call centre work if I was still there, and I worried about being a “lifer” who never achieved much higher than an entry-level job that I didn’t even need my degree for.  I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t like repetitive and passive work, but after writing out exactly what my duties were for everything I’ve done in the working world, I do see some transferable skills in a lot of what I did, and I’m more aware about what skills university gave me.

An open response to a recent letter in the paper

I just read a letter in the local paper where someone mentioned how after the election next week, he hopes the city council upholds the Christian values and morals of the community, citing the time the city gave money to have a “questionable” sexual-education expert from “Upper Canada” speak to the grade 9 students of the school division.  He must have been referring to Sue Johanson, who is a registered nurse, a member of the Order of Canada, and arguably Canada’s leading advocate for safe sex.

I understand the author of the letter is a very devout Catholic: there is nothing wrong with this.  But I take issue with a few things with his letter.  First off, who is to say he speaks for the whole community?  Miramichi is a small town more than a city, yes, but there are still a number of residents who don’t identify as Christian, or have more progressive views on the topic of sexuality.  I also have a problem with his calling Johanson’s credentials into question: Johanson is a qualified counselor and has been giving practical sexual advice for years before she became a media personality.  There are some areas where she does have a few blind spots, but in this case, would “qualified” only be bestowed on an educator who promotes abstinence-only education?  Lastly, what’s with this “Upper Canada” nonsense?  The colony of Upper Canada hasn’t existed since 1841.  My view is that the way that term was used connotes resentment against so-called “big-city values”, as if insulation from differing viewpoints is the only way to protect the integrity of the Miramichi.

To me, not giving information about contraception is irresponsible and immoral.  It’s like telling your children not to go into a dangerous area, but not letting them protect themselves if they do.

Election 2012: Wake me when it’s over.

I’m at a point where I’m just frustrated with the American political system; it seems like it’s going to be a not-particularly-hopeful situation no matter who wins.  I’m more a fan of Obama than Romney myself, but even if he does win, is anything going to get done, especially if there’s a Republican majority in the House or Senate.  If Romney wins, I think there is still some hope he’ll be a decent President if he skews centrist and doesn’t kowtow to the evangelicals and the Church of Ayn Rand.   If he doesn’t, though, he’s not going to get a second term.  It does seem like the far right wing is basically trying to turn back the clock fifty years without having a lick of sense that Dwight Eisenhower had.  There’s really not a lot of vision from either side, though.  Or if there is, there’s one that opposes it equally.

I can’t wait for the election to be over.  For all the talk about those horrible policies enacted under Obama’s watch (such as NDAA or HR 347), I don’t think the Republicans really want to undo them either.

I’m not really thinking too clearly right now.  I’m just crabby.  It’s not even my country.

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